New thriller "The Pool" is an analogy for failing in life and facing an uncertain future
WHAT WOULD it feel like to be trapped at the bottom of a six-metre deep pool with no possibility of climbing out and no one around to help? Director Ping Lumpraleng clearly remembers thinking about such a scenario when he first saw that pool 12 years ago while scouting locations for his directorial debut “Kote Rak Aeng Loei”.
That feeling is also what inspired him to write the script for his thriller “Narok 6 Metre” (“The Pool”), which hits cinemas tomorrow.
“The Pool” tells the story of Day (Teeradej Wongpuapan), an insecure prop man who is left alone to clear up a deserted six-metre-deep pool after a shoot. He falls asleep on an inflatable raft and wakes up to find that the water level has sunk so low that he cannot climb out of the pool on his own. He screams for help but the only thing that hears him is a creature from a nearby crocodile farm.
“My first idea when I started writing the script was ‘Nothing can pull us out from the lowest point of our lives except love’,” he tells The Nation.
Ping, who always introduces a personal account to his films, says that the story dwells on a man in his 40s who has yet to find success in life and faces an uncertain future. He likens Day to the way he was when he was working on his directorial debut.
Even though back then he was actually a well-known scriptwriter, Ping says that he was a nobody in terms of his filmmaking career. Just like Day who follows the orders of his much younger colleague, he was frustrated with his life.
But when Day is trapped at the bottom of the pool and his girlfriend injures herself jumping off the springboard to surprise him, he realises he has to find a way out for the one he loves and that shapes him into a better person – if, of course, he survives.
“When a man reaches 40 and has achieved nothing in life, he will feel down about himself. I was like that 12 years ago, so I asked myself, if I were Day, what should I do to get out from the pool? How do you emerge from the lowest point in your life?” he asks.
Ping was at the 40-year-old mark when he was working on his first film. “I felt uncertain and at that time I was nobody so it wasn’t easy as a director to order my crew to do what I wanted. Today I am surprised at my success and Day will be like me if he can escape from his lowest point,” says the 53-year-old director.
Despite finishing the script 10 years ago, Ping was unable to find funding and was delighted when Visute Poolvoralaks, formerly of GTH and the founder of production company T-Moment Film, greenlighted the project after reading the treatment.
Surprisingly over the 10 years he had been hawking the script to studios, Ping never even thought about changing the structure.
“Actually I never change my scripts once I finish them. I did fix some elements that weren’t there in the beginning because of the budget conditions. Also for “The Pool”, even though the story requires a great deal of CG technology, the storyline has nothing to do with how the world is changing. It is still about a man trapped at the bottom of the pool with his girlfriend and a furious crocodile and how he survives the situation,” he says.
To meet the CG demands, T Moment joined up with Riff Animation Studios, whose previous works include “May Nai Fai Raeng Fer”(“May Who?”).
But whether or not the “trapped in a situation” plot will appeal to local audiences suspicious of Thai skills in CG techniques and a storyline they have rarely encountered, is another matter. Since the trailer was released, the plot has become a hot topic online and opinion is firmly divided.
Those who are for it say it’s great that a new idea is being introduced to a Thai movie and they will go to watch it.
Others say the plot is irrational, ask why Day’s girlfriend is so stupid as to jump into an empty pool, why the pool doesn’t have steps and comment that a crocodile would never show up in such a location. In the film’s defence, some point out that diving is not a popular sport in Thailand so the majority of people know nothing about such pools.
The director smiles at those comments and says it’s good that the trailer is stirring up criticism because it provokes curiosity and he provides all the answers in the movies.
“But you know what? They comment on everything from the plot, the CG to the location but no one complains about the actor Ken Teeradej. I really appreciate that he said yes to this project. I can’t see any actors at this age (40) that can handle the whole story from the beginning to the end. Having him in this film is not just about his acting talent but his ability to be totally convincing as Day,” Ping says.
To overcome the flaws of a CG crocodile, Ping added backup shots using both a mechanical crocodile and also the real live reptile. And even though Thailand has plenty crocodile farms, convincing one to act as they wanted was no easy task.
“We filmed each scene involving the crocodile three times to give us some choice. However most of the scenes that appear in the movie are actually Riff’s CG ones. I doubt very much if the audience will be able to differentiate between the two.”
Visute earlier told The Nation that he gave the green light after reading the plot. “We have seen such plots in Hollywood movies like “The Shallows” or “127 Hours” but never in a Thai film. “The Pool” is a new idea for local audiences and we felt it had a good chance of success,” he said.
“We can’t do bombings or car explosions at the Hollywood level,” adds Ping “What we can do is bring a character into a high-pressure situation and give the story a good rationale. This film is neither a ghost or horror story but the story of a man who is trapped in a life or death situation.
Neither is “The Pool” an action fantasy where human fights against monster. So how and why does the crocodile fit in? Ping reiterates that he provides all answers in the film.
“We see news about crocodiles escaping from the farms every now and then, right? So it is a normal and believable situation. My intention was not to make a monster movie but a realistic drama that focuses on the character’s development,” he says.
“The Pool” finished shooting in July last year and the last 12 months have been spent on visual effects and post-production. The director praises T Moment for dedicating time and money to make the story complete despite the long lead-in period.
The first draft of the movie was too long at around two hours, 30 minutes and Ping painfully tried to trim little by little before Visute asked if he could help. The end result is a thriller that lasts 100 minutes without the loss of anything important. Here too Ping is full of praise for Visute’s editing style, so much so that he credits him as a co-director.
Ping has worked as the scriptwriter for 25 years but he has always wanted to be a filmmaker.
“Filmmaking is the job that nurtures my spirit while script work is how I make my living. So I’ll do the movie jobs I want to do and am happy to wait even if it takes 10 years,” he says.
He adds that the success at the box office doesn’t affect him as a director but he would still like “The Pool” to be a blockbuster.
“The Pool” is the third project of Visute’s T Moment and the first two films were financial flops despite earning good reviews.
“I am worried that the Visute will give up if it fails and the film industry will lose momentum. Finding success at the box office but putting out a poor quality film is not a good result. They should go together,” he says.